The classroom is a living community

Business Co-Design’s student intern, Sydney Haddad, sat down to speak with the latest winner of the Wayne Lonergan Award for Outstanding Teaching. This annual award recognises excellence, innovation and impact in teaching and learning at the University of Sydney Business School. Sydney talked with the inspiring Corina Raduescu from the Business Information Systems discipline about her approach to teaching as the “co-creation of learning”.

Would you be able to tell us a bit about your award application? How were you nominated and by whom?

I only decided to apply recently because I did not feel in the past that I had a broad portfolio or a large enough portfolio, or an impact. Once I kind of did my goal and I made an impact across the university, I felt that I can showcase this impact. So my whole application was pretty much showcasing things over 7 years of commitment and involvement.

What were they mostly nominating you for? What did they highlight about your teaching?

I’m very energetic and I try to, you know, challenge students at a very intellectual level and push for critical thinking. Although some students are commenting that it’s one of the hardest class they need to do and the most difficult assignments, at the end they are acknowledging the value of being pushed out of their comfort zone.

But what my whole innovation was about is recognized by the students and peers, that I’m really passionate and do very well in bridging academia and industry. My curriculum materials are all based on real case based scenarios – industry engagement. We have partners quite often, and students like that because they get an opportunity to apply what they have learned immediately in practice, and that’s helping them with their career and employability skills. That’s something that comes very, very often in the nominations as being very relevant to what they’re learning in my units for their future career.

And finally, I think they like the fact that I create environments that are highly interactive. I challenge them even, you know, in difficult conditions such as online, I was able to stimulate that conversation in the class and they feel that that’s very valuable. It creates this, you know, atmosphere in the room that they want to be part of, to be active participants.

Corina’s students learning in the classroom.

They are very lucky to have you as a teacher and an academic. What was the kind of evidence submitted to showcase your teaching?

I think number one was my scholarly innovation in education – it’s based on theories, my hard work and research in education. I’m one of those people that combines my research and what I’m teaching. It’s kind of nicely blending and working synergistically, you know from one side to another, if you wish. So, it was that contribution to my discipline originally, then I took it into the school and later at the university level in different project-based curriculum initiatives.

You mention your innovation. What was it about and what did it involve?

The core of my innovation is my belief that the classroom is a living community.

So what I mean by that is academics, students and industry partners co-create learning together and we’re learning from each other, and my passion is to address complex problems in this real world. Having this co-design of learning, it’s actually something that has worked very well and it’s been quite successful from starting in my discipline. Then, you know, moving the guiding principles for design into the capstone unit in the Business School, Bachelor of Commerce, and then the industry and community project units across the university interdisciplinary projects has been something that was really at the core of all those educational innovations and educational programs that we put in place. For me it is all about designing a project-based curriculum based on real world scenarios working together with industry partners. Sometimes alumni come to mentor students so that we help students thrive, grow and be able to address the complex challenges of this century. It’s very important bridging that gap between academia and industry. That was something that was driving me all the time. I guess one of the reasons that’s happening is because I come from a communist society where education was purely academic and I felt I had this disconnect to the real world, and that was almost holding me back all the time and I don’t want my students to be in those shoes. I was always aiming to make sure that whatever they learn, they can apply immediately. 

Industry representative speaking to students.

Well, the award was definitely well deserved! How did it feel to receive the nomination and then to win the award? 

It’s an amazing feeling … I was so happy and I felt that all this work that I’ve done over the years paid off, and it took me back to my first years in school and everything I’ve done all my life finally came to this moment when I win something and I’m recognized. It’s giving me more confidence now to engage with the community, with my peers. And it also gave me the confidence that I finally felt I made a significant impact on the students and particularly the skills that they need in the real world, and particularly to prepare our graduates for these challenging times and environments and 21st century type of workplace. 

Now to move on a little bit, you are also currently one of the co-chairs of the newly formed NSW Committee for HERDSA. Is there anything you’d like to tell us about HERDSA and why you joined? 

I wasn’t really involved with HERDSA, which is very interesting. It started becoming on my radar perhaps two years ago when I had a paper accepted and then had to join HERDS to attend the conference. I started looking more into what this community is, what it can do for me. I felt that it is a good society and a place where passionate educators can go and collaborate, work together, and learn from each other, and advance the scholarship of teaching and learning overall. I felt that there are a lot of opportunities to connect with people outside the university. Especially after winning the award, I thought ‘okay, my next stage in my career and building my leadership profile is to get outside of the university’. I felt that HERDSA is a good opportunity to gain exposure and engage with people beyond my institution, because it’s NSW, you connect with people from a lot of universities and also get exposure to the national HERDSA overall to different events and opportunities.

But the reason I put my hand up to be a New South Wales Co-Chair was that I was feeling that I’m ready to contribute to building that community in New South Wales. I’m in a position now, winning two awards; one Vice Chancellor Award and this award, that I have the credentials and now I’m backed up. One of our missions in New South Wales, we developed it together with the other Co-Chairs and the committee, was that we try to help people to develop leadership in education and be professionally capable outside of their institution in a more collegial education type of environment. Overall we are trying to enhance the scholarship of teaching and learning policies in higher education, particularly now that we have a lot of challenges. It’s a time for a lot of change in education. I felt that it was the right time to step in and be part of driving that change or influencing it as much as I can from my position. 

That’s great! Congratulations again, thank you so much for sitting with me to do this interview.

Thank you, it was my pleasure.

About the author

Digital Marketing Intern for the Business Co-Design team. Undergraduate student studying a combined Bachelor of Design Computing/ Advanced Studies, majoring in Marketing.

Published by Sydney Haddad

Digital Marketing Intern for the Business Co-Design team. Undergraduate student studying a combined Bachelor of Design Computing/ Advanced Studies, majoring in Marketing.

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